How to make good landscape photography – “Compose the subject, photograph the light then print the atmosphere”. Working philosophy I have use in my own photography and one I teach on the fine art landscape photography workshops.

The landscape photography workshops teach the three core subjects; Previsualization, Photography and Photoshop Post-Processing in one comprehensive, unique and holistic approach. This essential integration of subjects, is the key to quality.

This tutorial gives you an insight into my own digital photography workflow. Previsualization, Landscape Photography and Photoshop Retouching, all have their own specific tutorials for more detail and the general philosophies I use in each subject.

Photography Tutorial, How to make good landscape photography. Photograph of castle, Switzerland. David Osborn Photography
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Feel free to email David Osborn in person.

Workshop Teaching Introduction

The Workshop Logic I Use

If you can complete a photograph totally on your own during the workshop, then you will be able to complete an image totally on your own after the workshop. An obvious logic, but a very important one as it prepares you for after the workshop. There is a transition during the workshop from old to new knowledge. Old knowledge you do all yourself alone, new knowledge I teach you, then we practice. This means the vast majority of the steps you will have done alone before the workshop ends.

At the start of the workshop, I assume nothing. We start at the logical beginning of a photograph, taking the picture. Knowledge that is clear to me you know and understand, we write off as ‘done’ with no need to dwell on. Where we move into new areas for you, we slow down, then teach those points. Some may only take a second to explain, the very new ideas taking longer. This makes a very efficient use of your time and at the same time leaves no gaps in your knowledge, all learnt at your natural leaning speed.

The teaching process creates a transition from me being the critical tutor or pilot at the start of the workshop, in the teaching phase, to becoming no more than the co-pilot as the workshop progresses into the repetition phase. At the end, my role is reduced to correcting any mistakes I see and suggesting better alternative solutions; but you are flying the plane. The transition to you flying solo the following week after the workshop, is minimal. Any excess time is spent learning new, more refined techniques.

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Black and White photography workshop Spain. Photograph of City of Arts and Sciences, Valencia. David Osborn Photography.
The City of Arts and Sciences, Valencia, Spain – see Black and White Photography Workshop for more images.

Photography Previsualization

Before the Camera

When finding a new location, there are two questions to ask. Does it make a good photograph? and Does it have the light and mood? I decide exactly what the single main hero of my photograph is, usually a building, then find the best place to stand that gives me the cleanest view of that building. Where the building has clean outlines, feels three dimensional and has depth. The next question is to decide how wide I need to shoot; too wide the hero is lost, too tight the hero loses context. I need a balance between being able to see the building as the obvious hero and yet enough surrounding landscape to make a statement about the building being in the landscape.

Deciding the composition works, I like the building and surrounding landscape, the next issue is the light and mood. Landscape photographs are best taken with side and back lighting, to some degree the light being behind the subject aimed at the lens but to one side. Buildings are best side lit to give a strong three-dimensional feel. The first question is, what time of day is the best light for this building? Second, I need mood and getting the correct skies and clouds are the key. Lastly, I need to look if there are any secondary hero’s I want to emphasize to help the story and very importantly, are there objects that detract from my story. I need to decide how I will solve these issues now.

Finally, I am forming a plan. I ask myself, if I saw this image on a gallery wall, what would make it the perfect picture? What is it missing? What else does it need? Sometimes it is some animals and always the right sky, but skies I can shoot anywhere if I had too. What I can’t shoot anywhere else is content unique to this location. Secondly, I run through the Photoshop editing in my mind. Seeing what I can correct or remove in the landscape, and the problems involved, and how I can transform what I am looking at into the image and mood I want it to become. If I am confident that I can create the good image I see in my mind, then I move on to the photography stage.

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Photography Tutorial. Learn How to Make Good Landscape Photography. Photo of Sheep, Cumbria, England. David Osborn Photography
Lone Sheep, Cumbria, England

Landscape Photography

At the Camera

The task now is to create the image in my mind. Having arrived at the location again early to shoot the light on the building. My priority is to photograph the building, my hero at its best and get a safe set of bracketed exposures capturing all the tonal detail. My landscape photography workshops teach the shooting of three types of exposure or Photoshop assets. The base image, technical assets and artistic assets. The base image is the best single exposure of the whole scene, that comes nearest to the final photograph imagined. This base image, is the frame that I add all improvements to and becomes the final creative landscape photograph in the final editing in Photoshop.

As the light and mood changes, I look for any additional artistic assets. These are certain areas of the photograph where something unique is happening with the light and is only happening in one area not previously captured; but would improve the final photograph if they were added. If the light falls on the surrounding hills or secondary hero’s for example, I would photograph it. This gives me the maximum creative choice later in the Photoshop post processing stage. At the same time, I need to make sure that everything I shoot has good tonal values and detail, so additional technical exposures, bracketed exposures for certain areas are taken when needed for safety.

There comes a point where I have shot a lot of exposures, now I need to do some housekeeping. First, I re-create the image I imagined in my mind, the image I want to end up with and at the same time, I imagine trying to make that photograph from what I have just shot. I write two mental lists. What I have captured and what I still need to capture. The elements I have captured, and I am happy with, I do not need to worry about. I need to concentrate my time now, on the ‘to do’ list. Capturing the elements not yet shot. Once I work through the remaining list of elements the photography stage is completed. Before leaving I do a final mental review to make sure that nothing is forgotten.

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Photography Tutorial. Learn How to Make Good Landscape Photography. Photo of Trees, Italy. David Osborn Photography
Trees near Pisa, Italy

Photoshop Editing

After the Camera

Having returned home, the first stage of Photoshop post processing landscape photography is editing the exposures. I look first for my base exposure, the image that is the best match for the image I want in a single frame. That being chosen, I study the image and look first for any technical defects like filled in shadows and nominate the appropriate additional technical exposure to correct it. Then I look at the base exposure and ask what additional artistic assets does it need. What I end up with, is the minimum number exposures possible to make the photograph I want and imagined; every exposure having a clear purpose. I now have the ingredients to create my photograph.

The Photoshop editing phase of the landscape photography workshop is split into basic Photoshop and advanced Photoshop. The goal of the basic Photoshop stage is to combine all our exposures into one single image through compositing, so that I end up with a single image as if it were the most perfect raw file straight out of the camera. Technically perfect having sharpness and tonal detail everywhere in the image and artistically perfect in that it contains perfectly lit subject matter in all the areas I want. The composite must be perfect and show no Photoshop technique or artifacts at all. The next stage of Photoshop editing is to polish this single image into the final landscape photograph.

I polish it to enhance the global contrast, local contrast, spatial depth, sense of form, texture and three-dimensional feel. This stage is more about creating the optical illusion and less about real mood and atmosphere, what I call ‘super readability’, super clarity all over the image. The very final step, advanced Photoshop is the creative layer on top of the now created solid foundation. The rules go out the window. This is totally creative, enhancing light, mood and drama. Bringing up our hero to look it’s best, pushing down elements that might compete, giving the landscape photograph overall cohesion so it works as a total overall image, everything in their correct place.

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Get in Touch …

Feel free to email David Osborn in person.

Additional Tutorial Reading

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Revitalize your photography. Improve your Photoshop. Remove digital workflow confusion …

One digital photography workshop covers Previsualization, Photography and Photoshop; taking you step-by-step through the complete process of creating fine art landscape photography. Improve your existing skills and learn new skills to create a well practiced, documented workflow for you to follow after the workshop. One to one tuition, booked on demand, no preset dates. Workshops in Great Britain, brought to your home overseas or travel with you to a third destination worldwide.

Contact David Osborn Photography
69 Grange Gardens, Southgate,
London N14 6QN, England, UK

T: UK +44 (0) 771 204 5126
E: David@PhotoshopWorkshops.Com

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